What I've Learned about Being Enough

I’ve done a lot of “soul searching” and learning how to “fix” myself over the course of my life and most of this brought me to a realization (or rather a story I chose to believe) that I’m not good enough.

Here’s the thing. Over the last few years, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ve always been enough, and it’s not about “fixing” it’s more about “releasing” that which no longer serves me or the higher version of myself.

Still, that doesn’t mean every day is a cake walk. I still have doubts and the questions, “Am I good enough?” and “Who am I?” still creep in.

If any of this rings true for you, I invite you to watch today's video as I share with you part of my real and raw story of what I’ve learned from not being enough.

Just because certain stories feel real sometimes doesn’t mean they are true. {Tweet that!}

And so even if my life isn’t “perfect,” I still have something valuable to share because I believe we are all lightbulbs shining light on the collective unconscious and the more lightbulbs we turn on, the better we all can see.

Now it’s your turn! What’s your story? What have you learned about being enough?  Leave a comment in the Facebook post or below this blog. I'd love to support each other as we get real and raw.

Shine your light in whatever way you want. Know that you have everything within you. You are enough. {Be a lightbulb and tweet that, too!}

With love & gratitude,

Amanda

PS If you haven't already heard the exciting news, you can now get a copy of my FREE ebook that explores this whole idea a whole lot further. Get your copy today!

How to Have Less Stress by Cleaning up Your Beliefs: Part 1

The other day I found myself feeling a little out of sorts and kind of cranky. Then I noticed that my apartment was starting to get messy—piles of papers were forming all over my small space and dust bunnies were gathering under my book cases.

So I took some time to straighten things up and put things away and it was incredible what a difference that made!

Then it dawned on me. Just like how we need to spring clean our living spaces to feel a sense of renewal and less stress, we need to do the same thing with our beliefs from time-to-time.

Just like papers, clothes, or boxes that sit untouched for months (or years) start piling up and can add to our feeling of heaviness and dissatisfaction, our beliefs (when gone unexamined) can have the same effect.

And I started by pulling out and looking at some of my beliefs about what it means to put something out into the world that may not be "perfect." So I stepped out of my comfort zone a bit and created my first video series to walk through how I see decluttering our beliefs is a lot like decluttering our closets and it begins with pulling everything out so we can take stock of what we have.

In this first video of my 3-part series, I'll share the 3 things to remember when starting the process of cleaning out our old beliefs so we can have less stress and more peace.

Now for this week’s challenge.

I want you to begin taking stock of your thoughts, noticing how they’re showing up and how they affect your life. Ask yourself, “What happens in my body when I believe this thought? How do I act and what are the outcomes or results of that thought?” I am fascinated to find out what you learn through this process, so please take the moment and share some of your discoveries in the comments below.

This week's "tweetable:" We are not our thoughts, just like we are not the box of yearbooks or pairs of shoes in our closet. {Tweet that!}

Want to receive next week's video directly to your inbox? Be sure to sign up so as to not miss out on what we do with our beliefs once we have pulled them all out!

When Trying to Figure It out No Longer Works, Try Asking Different Questions

I’m not sure if it’s something that I ate or something going on in the stratosphere but I have been riddled with self-doubt and anxiety lately. And, for some reason, there seems to be a lot of this going around right now. I really wanted to try to solve this mystery and provide some answers to why this is happening and what I can do about it. In my process to do so and in preparation to share my findings with others, a couple of timely things occurred.

First, I happened to pick up a book (which I highly recommend anyone interested in this topic read immediately) that I read a couple of years ago and was reminded that I do not need to try and fix anything or even figure it out. As Michael Singer says in his book, “When a problem is disturbing you, don’t ask, ‘What should I do about it?’ Ask, ‘What part of me is being disturbed by this?’"

Secondly, I spoke with my father who shared some beautiful — and very vulnerable — wisdom with me. He said that possibly the greatest thing he has learned in his life is that he doesn’t have the answers — just lots of questions. And I think there is a lot to learn from this little gem.

These insights helped me shift away from trying to figure it out to asking different questions.

When we think we should have the answer or know what is going to happen, we simply create more stress and anxiety in our life. Which I’m pretty sure is the exact thing we are trying to escape by “knowing."

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In those moments of anxiety, self-doubt and uncertainty it’s not about having the answer, it’s about asking different questions.

What’s going on inside right now?

Check in. Like Michael Singer says, notice what part is being disturbed. What is happening in the body? What is happening in the mind? What sensations do I notice? Simply observe. It is not about judging it or changing it. Just tuning in.

Who is it that notices this going on?

Ever wondered who it was that was observing all the various thoughts and sensations going on in the body? That is the observer. The consciousness. The true self.

My guided meditation today used a brilliant metaphor for the mind being the clear blue skies. Our thoughts and feelings are the passing clouds. And sometimes they are dark thunderclouds and it can seem difficult to think about anything else. But the clear blue skies are always there — just think about an airplane going above the clouds. And it is from these clear blue skies that we observe the thoughts and feelings. It is from these clear blue skies that we find our self. We are not the clouds below — our thoughts and feelings — we are that which observes.

Is anything wrong in this moment?

This one can be tricky because we sometimes like to think that certain feelings are “wrong” or that the thought that we are having is “wrong” but if we get really honest with ourselves and remember that no feeling or thought is neither wrong nor right — it just is — then we can more often than not answer this question with a resounding “no.”

Most times we can take comfort in the fact that we have our health and our safety. We are not in immediate danger. Just because we feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean something is wrong — it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. That is part of human existence.

Now, if you’re still wondering what to do when feeling a surge of self-doubt or anxiety, all I can say is that I don’t have the answer nor do I think I need to.

See what happens if instead of tasking our minds to trying to figure it out we simply observe what is going on, sit with the discomfort and ask who is it that notices all of this from those clear blue skies?

What one or two things can you start doing when experiencing feelings of self-doubt or anxiety? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear what resonates most with you!

The Only “What If” Question We Ever Need to Ask Again

I cannot count how many times I wonder things like, “what if this happens” or “what if that happens” and “oh my god, but what if…?!” These questions and focusing on the future are not nearly as helpful as I want them to be. Instead of getting answers and feeling better about things, I often end up with more questions and feeling a lot worse.

So … I’ve decided that I’m going to do my best to refrain from asking any “what if” question EXCEPT for the only one that actually helps me experience more peace, ease and flow in my life. One that actually provides me with more answers and feeling better than before I asked it.

Wanna know what the one “what if” question is ….?

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WHAT IF IT ISN’T TRUE?

I imagine many of us have stories that we tell ourselves on a daily (if not hourly) basis that limit us or hold us back. These stories usually aren’t fairytales or even awesomely powerful “I can do it” stories.

They are more often than not stories that tell us how we aren’t good enough or why things don’t work out for us or why we could never do this or that.

It is these stories that make up our belief system — about ourselves and about the world around us.

And it is our beliefs that beget our actions and behaviors. So … if we want to change a behavior, the first place to look is at the stories we tell ourselves and what beliefs we carry.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

If we want to start moving the needle in the direction towards global sanity, we need to start by looking within at the beliefs we each hold that are driving the same ol’ behavior over and over again.

Here are a few suggestions on how to start this process.

Acknowledge that a story and belief even exist.

Before we can change anything, we must first admit it exists. We need to admit that the beliefs we hold to be absolute truth are just based on stories that we have been telling ourselves for as long as we can remember. And while these stories are based on our personal experiences or the experiences others have shared with us, they are still our creative interpretation of reality which started to form our view of ourselves and the world. Before we can do anything else, we need to take the first step (albeit possibly the hardest) and say, “This is a story I keep telling myself."

Question the belief.

Now that we have acknowledged that our beliefs are nothing more than stories we made up and reinforced time and time again, we can begin to question them. We can start to ask ourselves, “what if this isn’t true?” Another way to do this is to question what other possibilities exist? And one of my favorite ways to reframe our beliefs is to ask “who would I be without this story?” This helps us take more responsibility in how we are behaving based on the story or thought we choose to believe. The more often we can put ourselves in the driver’s seat and make powerful, conscious choices on what we believe and how we act, the more often we will experience peace, ease and flow in the world.

Replace your stories with new ones.

Once we start shifting our perspective and see that there are other stories that are equally as valid and probably even serve us better, then we can start to form new beliefs. This can be done by establishing some positive habits and rituals like gratitude, affirmations, setting soulful intentions and focusing on that which we want to bring more of into our lives.

The great thing about stories is that they can be rewritten.

I get it — we like our stories. We think they are who we are. They are comfortable and we know them all by heart!

But when they hold us back and limit us from being our best authentic self, then it is time to get out the red pen and start making some edits. It might even mean scrapping the whole story altogether and starting over from scratch.

What is one story you keep telling yourself over and over again that you are willing to acknowledge, question and possibly even replace? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

3 Paths to Get What We Want — Which One Do You Choose?

A few months ago, I challenged myself to eliminate caffeine from my diet for 2 weeks. The 2 weeks turned into almost 2 months. Initially, I started exploring alternatives like herbal teas and even decaf espresso at times. Then, I started to notice how in my search to expand my possibilities and remove my need for something I actually started to institute a new limitation. All of sudden, I couldn’tdrink caffeine. I was afraid to drink it as it might reignite my addiction. This became its own limitation. Just another extreme. When I noticed this, I consciously ordered a cup of coffee. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as I used to, I appreciated the fact that I permitted myself to know what I do and do not want at any given time.

When we are about to do something or not do something it is because we are going for something we want in life — to relax, fit into our jeans or just feel better.

This may come in the form of making resolutions and choosing to restrict certain things from our lives. Or perhaps by indulging in anything and everything that we want.

Either way, these both limit us from making mindful, purposeful choices in each moment.

There is a third — and much more empowering — way to get what we want in life.

The Buddha once said that “a path of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification … was the path of wisdom."

When we are about to do something to get closer to what we want, there are three ways we typically come to this conclusion.

"I can’t, so I guess I won’t"

When I eliminated caffeine from my diet, I initially did so from a conscious place — choosing not to drink it mainly for health reasons. Then, it became an “I can’t so I guess I won’t” decision which was very limiting and no longer based on the few specific reasons I had originally identified.

When we make decisions based out of self-denial, we lose an opportunity to get to know ourselves and get really clear on why we choose not to do something. We also end up making decisions out of fear, judgment, resistance or attachment.

"I can, so of course I will "

Before I gave up caffeine for those few weeks, I had gotten into a habit of having one or two cups of coffee each morning not because I actually wanted it but because I could … and I always had. It had become just as limiting because I was no longer checking in and making a conscious decision to have it.

When we permit ourselves to indulge in whatever we want just because we can, we miss an opportunity to really check in and see if that is what we want in this moment. We become a slave to ourselves and lose a chance to actively guide our life in the direction we want it to go.

"I can, and I choose …"

… to do it or not. In either case, I empower myself to choose what serves me best in that moment. We can still choose not to do something, in which case it is done from a place of knowledge and acceptance of oneself and not out of fear, laziness or greed.

When we realize we can do something and choose not to, we demonstrate our strength and power in the world. When we realize we can do something and choose to do it, we honor ourselves and have a chance to practice acceptance and letting go.

Living at the extremes of life can ultimately be quite limiting. The joy comes when we live somewhere in the balance of it all.

Striving to live a life in moderation is more than saying “yes” to some things and “no” to others — it is about getting quiet and making mindful decisions in each moment that reflect and uphold our values and principles in the world.

That is how we can ultimately get what we want out of life.

Think of one thing you consistently deny yourself of or indulge in. Is that based in a value or principle and, if so, what is it? If not, think about what it would feel like to empower yourself to no longer live by this limitation and instead consciously choose in each moment what you want to do.

How to Move from Comparison to Self-Acceptance

A friend and I were chatting the other day and she mentioned that she felt discouraged about her yoga practice because she had been comparing herself to how often I was going. I giggled when she said this because I had just that morning felt discouraged when I couldn’t get myself out of bed thinking how she always gets up early and accomplishes so much in the morning. It was so funny to me that both of us saw the other as being better or doing more when in reality we both are amazing and wonderful in our own, unique way.

Have you ever gone on Facebook or Instagram and thought to yourself, “everyone’s life seems so happy and amazing … why isn’t mine like that all the time?"

When we compare ourselves to others, we deny all the beautiful, authentic qualities we possess and think that who we are in this moment is not good enough.

So how do we move from comparison to self-acceptance?

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The practice of mindfulness is about celebrating and cultivating our authentic self in each and every moment. By practicing a few simple techniques, we create more space and opportunity to feel compassion, acceptance and love the person we are in this moment.

When we are about to compare ourselves with others, it is a great opportunity to check in and try a few simple things.

    • Take a moment or two and observe what is going on inside. Is there a feeling or a thought? Just check in with non-judgmental awareness and allow the feeling or thought to exist.
    • Gently remind yourself that every time we look at someone else as being more or having more, someone is most likely saying the same thing about us. This can help us experience more compassion for ourself and for others.
    • Shift the thought from "what others have or do" to “what do I have or do” and celebrate who you are even if in that particular moment there is doubt or anger or fear or frustration. Allow yourself to be reminded of the things you do well.

Especially with social media, it can seem nearly impossible to avoid comparing ourselves with others. It is something I struggle with on an ongoing basis. But, the more often I practice mindfulness, the more often I am aware of when I start to go down that path and how to navigate back out and into my beautiful, amazing, unique self.

When we accept and celebrate who we are in each moment, we experience so much more peace and joy in our lives. Of course, this won’t happen overnight and is an ongoing practice — but each time we remind ourselves to check in and have more self-love, it gets a little bit easier.

What are three wonderful, unique qualities you can celebrate today? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

Presence Matters Has Been Published Again on Elephant Journal

I am excited to share that Presence Matters has once again been published on elephant journal! This is a really important step for spreading the message of having more peace and joy in life. I invite each of you—my supportive readers—to take a moment to check out my latest article, Soulful Intentions for the New Yearif you didn't get a chance to read it last week.

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The first moments of a New Year present opportunity to set aside some time to come up with our intentions for the year ahead.

Resolutions are the more common as we approach the first of the year. However, these firm decisions do not seem to support a mindful existence as well as an intention, which allows for the ebb and flow that life most certainly will bring.

As we embark on a new year—another 365 days of possibility—I want do so in an intentional way, creating a guide from which to make mindful, soulful decisions in each and every moment. Decisions that support and uphold the life I desire. [click the link to read more]

You can help out greatly by clicking this link and, if the article inspires or resonates with you, re-share it on your personal social media pages.

Thank you for seeking and spreading the art of improving the experience of life!

With gratitude ...

How to Live a Soulful Existence by Setting Intentions for the New Year

On the last day of the year, it is a great opportunity to set aside some time and come up with our intentions for the year to come.

Resolutions are the more common list we each make as we approach the first of the year. However, these firm decisions do not seem to support a mindful existence as well as an intention which allows for the ebb and flow that life most certainly will bring.

As we embark on a new year — another 365 days of possibility — let’s do so in an intentional way, creating a guide from which we can make mindful, soulful decisions in each and every moment that support and uphold the life we want.

embracing the ocean

I have tried many things in the past from resolutions to goals to simply remaining open to what life may bring — each with varying levels of success. This year I wanted to try something new.

A friend of mine challenged me to come up with my intentions for 2015. It was a beautiful exercise of sitting with myself and getting in touch with not just what I want to do next year but how I want to live.

With her challenge in mind, I sat down and thought about how a person might identify one’s intentions. These are more than just a list of goals or a list of things to start or stop doing. They are how we want to experience life in each moment. They serve as a guide that directs each of our decisions and helps us manifest that which we want to see more of in the world.

To identify one's intentions — and not just a list of resolutions — I suggest trying the following things:

Get quiet

Whether this is through meditation or simply observing the thoughts in our head and letting them be, getting quiet allows us to get in touch with our deeper, inner self — the wisdom within.

Reflect on the past year

When we make a list of our accomplishments, we can celebrate all that we already possess and how powerful we can be. To do this, a mentor of mine encourages us to close our eyes and visualize the person we were on January 1, 2014 (physically, emotionally, spiritually). Then, step out of that person and take a “mental walk” towards the person we are today (physically, emotionally, spiritually), identifying all of the accomplishments along the way.

It is equally important to identify any areas where we didn’t necessarily hit the mark — not so that we can judge or experience any self-hate (see #3) but rather so that we can realistically accept where we are currently.

Avoid judgement of self, others and situations

It is inevitable that things on our to-do list never got checked off or we didn’t reach some of our goals. That is okay. It is important to remember that life is a journey, not a destination. Instead of judging our current situation, simply observe it. Equally it is helpful not to compare ourselves with others. We are all on our own path and are exactly where we need to be at this very moment.

Get in touch with what we want to have more of in life

Once we have identified what we experienced as accomplishments and areas where we still want to improve, we can ask ourselves what feeling or experience we want to have more of in life. These will most likely start showing up as themes as we look at each accomplishment and ask “what was I going for here?” or “what did I experience/feel when I accomplished this?” We can ask the same of those areas where we want to improve by asking ourselves “if I did (more of) this, what do I expect to feel/experience?” These feelings or experiences can serve as our intentions — our inner wisdom and guide — from which we hang everything else.

We can still set goals that uphold our intentions and are illustrative of what we plan to experience. Just remember that goals — like life — change and need to be continuously reexamined and modified to fit current situations. So long as our decisions uphold and illustrate our intentions, we can live a mindful, soulful, intentional existence.

When you think about what you have accomplished and what you still want to improve upon, what feeling or experience are you looking to have more of in your life? 

’Tis the Season to Unwrap Your Inner Wisdom

As we approach the end of the year, it is a great time for self-reflection and looking ahead — a time to acknowledge all of our accomplishments and any areas where we have more room to grow. So many of us spend a lot of time and energy looking outside of ourselves for permission or "the answer.” And there is benefit to doing this. There is a lot to learn from others and from the wealth of human experience.

However, sometimes this can go too far and beyond supporting ourselves to do and be what we want in the world.

If, like me, you find yourself more often than not seeking the advice or expertise of others, take some time to tap into that source of wisdom and experience that each and every one of us possess.

Each of us can find an infinite source of wisdom to make our dreams come true by looking within.

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For me, this year has been filled with taking time to discover, learn and grow and it has been an incredible journey. And with the help of many mentors and teachers, one of my greatest accomplishments was getting a clearer sense of who I am and what I want.

I learned (over and over again) that happiness is not found anywhere but within and that we possess all that we can ever imagine or desire.

It is time to put to use all of the amazing tools and lessons I have received over the past year.

As we look ahead at our goals and intentions, consider this: the main difference between people who are living out their goals and people who wish they were is those who are living them are doing it. It’s that simple.

They aren’t sitting around saying “I don’t possibly have what it takes” or “Others obviously know better than I do” or any other reason or excuse not to do it.

Now I’m not saying there is no value in learning from others. This is part of the process. However, sometimes this can become an excuse to hold back from offering one’s unique gifts and talents to the world.

We are all on a journey and continuously growing and learning and becoming more of an expert in whatever it is we do. But all of that requires doing the very thing we want to get better at.

After all, the best way to learn is by doing.

As we enter the New Year, it is a great time to think about where we held ourselves back this year and our intentions for the next. If there is something you have wanted to do but find yourself making excuses or putting it off, ask yourself:

“Do I currently have the skills or abilities?”

If the answer is no, find a class or work with a mentor or read a book that can help you with this. If the answer is yes (and be honest with yourself here), ask yourself:

“How can I tap into what I already possess and apply it towards reaching my goal?"

You may find that there are a number of things you can do right now by tapping into your inner wisdom and experience.

Remember that reaching out to others and receiving support is part of the process. Just be mindful that it is used to support that which we already possess and not because everyone else knows better.

We all have our own unique gifts and it is through the exchange of giving to and receiving these from others where we can build and accomplish beautiful things in this world.

Improving oneself is a lifelong journey and something I am extremely passionate about. And, it is good to remain aware that sometimes even this can become an excuse or hindrance if it keeps us from applying all that we have learned and relying on the wisdom within.

What is one thing you have been wanting to do but fear you don’t have enough knowledge or skill? What abilities or experience do you have that can move you towards this goal right now?

Join the conversation by commenting below or take some time to reflect on your own.

Being Grateful Can Happen Without the Turkey

In the spirit of Thanksgiving this week, I am reposting my blog on gratitude and its benefits. Enjoy the holiday season and remember that being grateful can be a daily practice — even when there is no turkey.

There are plenty of things to complain about in this world. But there are also a ton of amazing (and not-so-amazing, quite ordinary) things that are worthy of our acknowledgment on a daily — if not hourly — basis. Practicing gratitude has a number of benefits. And who wants to be a “Negative Nancy” all the time?

Curious what these benefits are and how to cultivate them on a regular basis?

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I admit, I have said many a negative thing in my life. But I don't like the way I feel when I say those things. When those negative thoughts start to emerge — which they still do — I immediately try to interrupt them and ask "what are you grateful for?"

Then I list off three or five things that I am grateful for in this very moment.

It is amazing how much better I feel and how quickly those terrible things don't seem so terrible anymore.

Expressing gratitude can sometimes slip our minds. But the benefits far outweigh the effort required to implement a regular gratitude practice.

There is a growing body of knowledge in this area led by highly esteemed researchers such as Robert Emmons, Ph.D. Check out some of the benefits found during this gratitude research.

  • In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
  • A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.
  • daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.
  • In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

"So, how do I go about doing this more often?" you might ask.

Establish a system that works for you. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep a gratitude journal and list a few things in it each day before going to bed that made you smile or that you were grateful for.
  • Participate in or create a gratitude challenge on Facebook with your friends to post 3 “grate” things on a daily basis.
  • Ask a friend to be your “Gratitude Buddy” and send each other one thing you are grateful for each day — not only does it reap the benefits, it helps you develop a deeper connection with a friend you might not otherwise connect with as often. Next time you find yourself saying something negative, try the gratitude treatment. I bet you'll have an easier time finding things to be grateful for than having to complain about.

What are 3-5 things you are grateful for right now? Spread the gratitude bug by sharing your thoughts below.

3 Ways to Live a More Fearless Existence

Ah, fear.

That sickening feeling of not knowing what could happen. The paralysis of the body and mind. That which keeps us from exploring the unknown or living a fuller existence. We all experience this very primal sensation. It is a biological firing of nerves and adrenaline we experience when our fight-or-flight goes off. Then, we get in our heads and label it “fear.” We allow this fear to limit us, make decisions for us and, more often than not, add an extreme amount of stress to our lives.

The good news? We don’t have to turn this biological sensation into anything more than an awareness to what is happening in the present moment. We can all live a more fearless existence by keeping a few things in mind.

Swing

Part of being present is to remain non-judgmentally aware of one's mind, body and life situation without attaching to any specific outcome. This can prove quite challenging when entering unchartered waters.

This year has been full of entering the unknown for me. First, I decided to quit my day job without any "plan B." Then, I recently attended a development program in a different state from where I live and, while there, decided to return one week later to take another 10-week training program. This felt quite uncomfortable. I was relocating temporarily with very little time to plan or even think about what I was getting myself into.

I can definitely say that many times during this year I have experienced a sensation that I label as “fear."

So, how do I practice presence in the face of all of this uncertainty and discomfort?

First of all, sometimes I don’t. But, I have noticed a significant increase in my ability to live with the discomfort and the fear. It helps me in these moments to keep a few things in mind.

Remember that fear is not reality-based.

The sensation we often label as “fear” is more often than not a lack of information. We then find ourselves feeling anxious about what might or might not happen in the future which keeps us out of reality. Everything happens in the present moment — nothing happens in the past or future.

"The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia, and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now.”

It’s helpful to take the time to shift our focus to remain open and take in as much information as possible in each moment instead of worrying about the non-reality of the future.

Ask: What’s the worst thing that can happen?

"The reason why you don’t put your hand in the fire is not because of fear, it’s because you know that you’ll get burned. You don’t need fear to avoid unnecessary danger — just a minimum of intelligence and common sense.” - Eckhart Tolle

When we are faced with something that we are unfamiliar with or do not know which way to go, we can ask ourselves, “what is the worst thing that can happen?” This helps ground us and bring us back to the reality of the situation and not get caught up in the endless scenarios of the mind.

Sometimes we may even be surprised that the worst thing isn’t really that bad after all.

Move through the fear.

Courage is not about doing something with the absence of fear but rather moving through it. Sometimes we experience a sensation in our bodies when we do not have enough information or a similar experience to draw upon from our past. But this is just a bodily sensation.

Moving through the fear means that we experience the physical sensation without labeling it or creating additional emotions or stressful thoughts around it. As Eckhart Tolle says, “You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection — you cannot cope with the future."

When we let fear drive our decision-making, we are putting our life in the hands of a non-reality based emotion that restricts us rather than expands us.

We limit ourselves when we allow our fears to go beyond the initial reaction. This can happen a lot when we are going to make decisions. And when we make fear-based decisions, we are saying “no” to life rather than “yes” to possibilities.

How do you let fear limit you? What are other ways you practice presence in the face of fear? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

The Power of the Domino Effect

Kindness Blog has generously published another Presence Matters blog on the power of the Domino Effect. dominos-1

One of my favorite things to do when I was a child was to line up dozens of dominoes in an interesting configuration, tip one of them over and watch all the others elegantly follow suit.

Sometimes I think that people are a bit like dominoes.

When one of us is “nudged” to do something good, many others elegantly follow suit.

Read the article to see how one person's seemingly small action can spur positive change.

Presence Matters Has Been Published Again on Elephant Journal

I am excited to share that Presence Matters has once again been accepted to publish articles on elephant journal! This is a really important step for spreading the message of having peace and ease in life.

I invite each of you—my supportive readers—to take a moment to check out my latest article, Improve Your Relationships by Remembering These 3 Things.

Have you ever struggled with maintaining a centered sense of self whilst in an intimate relationship?

Maintaining this more enlightened state seems to get harder the closer we get to people.

In the hopes of making this a bit easier, I started to pay attention and discovered that we can all experience more conscious relationships by remembering three important things.

You can help out greatly by clicking this link and, if the article inspires or resonates with you, re-share it on your personal social media pages.

Thank you for seeking and spreading the art of improving the experience of life!

With gratitude ...

Improve Your Relationships by Remembering These 3 Things

Have you ever struggled with maintaining a centered sense of self whilst in an intimate relationship? Maintaining this more enlightened state seems to get harder the closer we get to people. Relationships offer a number of challenges including how they seem to make this whole “presence thing” more difficult.

In the hopes to make this a bit easier, I started to pay attention to when I felt further from my centered self and what seems to help put me back on the more mindful path.

Through this exploration, I discovered that we can all experience more conscious relationships by remembering three important things.

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I’ve recently taken a lot of time to get to know myself and work on me. I began to notice that I am making some significant strides in terms of how I interact with myself, how I interact with my friends and how I move through the world as a more present, mindful human.

Then … I got into a romantic relationship.

This was my first serious relationship in two years. And, with my new sense of self, I started to think that maybe I had figured out this whole relationship thing after all.

Then it started to become obvious to me that the work I did with myself didn’t necessarily translate seamlessly to being with another person.

I was reminded that there are still deeper, darker areas I have yet to explore and work on in order to be more mindful and conscious when with another person and not simply moving through life alone.

Strive to be wrong

Going with the flow can come quite naturally to us. Humans are great at enduring change. We are highly adaptive. And, yet, have you noticed how ironclad fisted we can get about being “right”? It can cause so much unnecessary pain and suffering — specifically in close relationships. Not only can it harm the other person at the receiving end of our righteousness, it also hinders us from growing.

In order to learn and grow, we must be wrong. Think about it, if we know everything already then there is nothing left we can learn. If we are not learning, we cannot grow.

It is only when we release our hold on being “right” that we can truly be open and enjoy the beauty of a close relationship.

Take responsibility for our emotions

“He just makes me so mad.” “She ruined the whole evening.” “He really gets under my skin.”

When we say things like this we are immediately casting blame outside ourselves for how we feel and react in this world. Sometimes it might seem like the actions of others cause our reactions or feelings — but this is not the case. The actions of others do have effects in the world just as our actions have effects. However, our emotions and thoughts are purely the effect of our own causes.

The more we can take responsibility for our inner state of being and release the need to be responsible for someone else's, the easier and more peaceful life becomes.

Notice what the other person exposes in us

When we see something we like, it’s a projection of what we like within ourselves. When we think someone is angry, it’s a projection of what we know anger to look like based on how we react when we’re angry. When we allow ourselves to get irritated with something (or someone), it is because that thing reminds us of a trait we have and don’t like.

It is through this exposure that we can choose to either get angry and push people away or expect them to change, or we can use this as an opportunity to more deeply explore ourselves and better understand what it is we are uncomfortable having exposed.

It is by exploring the parts of ourselves that we don’t like — not changing others — that we can experience happier and healthier relationships with ourselves and with others.

When we are wiling to be wrong, take responsibility for our emotions and examine the dark corners of ourselves, we can experience empowering, sustainable relationships — whether they are with the stranger in the supermarket or with our lifelong partner.

What tips do you have for being more mindful in relationships? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Being Mindful Doesn't Mean Not Making Mistakes

Have you ever gotten frustrated with yourself for not being as calm and centered as you would like to be? I have. Quite a bit.

I often forget that mindfulness is not just another thing to “get right." Somehow I get it in my head that just because I practice presence that means I will always behave in a mindful way. That I can “master” mindfulness. No pressure or anything.

But Eckart Tolle reminds us that as soon as we notice we are not being present, we are present. That is the whole point.

Mindfulness is an ongoing, lifelong exercise in reminding ourselves to be in the present moment. This will happen over and over and over again.

And the more often I can remind myself that my mind is focused more in the past or future and not on what is happening in the moment, the more I strengthen my mindfulness muscle.

Head in Hands

As a recovering perfectionist and over-achiever, I really want to “master” mindfulness. I somehow think that once I “figure it all out” I will always act in a mindful way. No stress, no resistance, no attachment, pure bliss, above being human.

Well, that’s not how it works.

I am human — even the Dalai Lama "makes mistakes" and is a lifelong student of mindfulness. Just because I have learned how to be more aware and experience a higher level of consciousness than I did, say, two years ago does not mean that I still don’t make mistakes.

Being mindful is not about being perfect. Being mindful is about being in each moment as often as possible, showing compassion to myself and others as often as possible, and fully experiencing my life situation as it is as often as possible.

For some of us, it might be helpful to be reminded that we are not superwomen and supermen. Though it can be easy to think that sometimes.

The path to enlightenment has twists and turns and roots and rocks and many stumbling blocks along the way. It’s not about avoiding the pitfalls; it’s about staying on the path in spite of them.

When we choose to practice presence, this does not mean we aren’t still human and make mistakes. If you find yourself forgetting that you are an imperfect human like the rest of us while on your path to more peace and ease in your life, gently remind yourself of these things:

All you can do is do your best.

And remember that “best” is not “perfect.” Imagine if each of us were more mindful just 10% more of the time. It doesn’t have to be 100% (and in reality won’t be) to make a positive difference.

Be compassionate.

Love yourself for being bold enough to try. Being mindful isn’t always comfortable. Failure is not an indicator of a lack of ability — it is a reminder of where our current limitations are and an opportunity to grow.

Pick yourself up and try again.

When you catch yourself judging or resisting or attaching to what is (or was or might be), give yourself a little grace for even noticing this (that’s already a huge step!) and then try again.

We can all strive to be more mindful in our lives while accepting that we are merely human. Mindfulness does not have an end date of completion. There is no certificate or title to achieve. This means we get to work on it each and every day for the rest of our lives. And the mistakes we make along the way are simply opportunities to learn more about ourselves and continue to grow.

How have you noticed yourself trying to “master” personal growth? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Don't SHOULD All Over Yourself

How many times have you caught yourself saying, “I really should….”? This one small word has more power than we think — it causes stress, feeling “less than,” and places more importance on the outside world than on our internal needs and desires.

This one small word can also be used as a great excuse — excusing ourselves from not doing something we really don’t want to do and excusing ourselves from mustering up the motivation or courage to do the things we want to do.

Next time you find yourself "should-ing” all over yourself, take the time to honestly answer a couple of simple questions.

Head in Hands

Probably some of my most commonly used phrases are, “I really should go to yoga today” or “I should call my parents” or “I supposed I should do something different with my life.” It seems natural to say these words. They slip out of my mouth as if almost by magic. The word just sneaks its way into my vocabulary simply to taunt me.

When I find myself using “should” I have an immediate reaction that can range somewhere between self-loathing and complete self-denial.

As I became more aware of my self and what this one little word does to me, I started asking why I was even using it. And what might happen when I replaced that word with something else.

Here’s what I discovered. The word “should” typically does one of two things.

It either serves as a placeholder for doing something that I have absolutely no interest in doing and only feel an obligation to do based on something in the external world or an internal judgment.

Or it serves as a placeholder for doing something that I really want to do but am lacking the motivation or courage to commit.

Either way, this one little word causes unnecessary stress as it weighs us down and casts doubt on our desires and priorities.

Whether we use “should” as an excuse not to do something we don’t muster up the motivation to do or as a way to hold ourselves hostage to the obligations of others and unrealistic expectations of ourselves, we can all free ourselves by authentically answering these two questions and removing the word “should” from our vocabulary.

Is this something that I truly want to do and aligns with my values?

If yes, replace the “should” with a “want” or a “will” and make a commitment to do it. If no, continue to the next question.

Is it simply an unnecessary external or internal obligation that I have established?

If yes, free yourself from the obligation and remove this from your mental or physical to-do list.

Once we determine which bucket these “should’s” fall into, then it’s time to put systems or processes in place to make the “want’s” and “will’s” happen.

Instead of wasting energy “should-ing” all over ourselves, we can put that energy towards shaping our future through the choices we make in each moment without any of the unnecessary self-loathing or regret.

It is so empowering to know that we are in control of determining our values and actions. Ridding our vocabulary of the word “should” is one of the first steps to having a clearer sense of what we want and don’t want. And it creates space for having more energy to put into fulfilling our value-based commitments with ourselves.

What is one “should” you can either remove from your to-do list or change to a “will”? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

Presence Matters Has Been Published Again on Elephant Journal

I am excited to share that Presence Matters has again been accepted to publish articles on elephant journal! This is a really important step for spreading the message of having peace and ease in life.

I invite each of you—my supportive readers—to take a moment to check out the article, Discover Unconditional Well Being in the Present.

You can help out greatly by clicking this link and, if the article inspires or resonates with you, re-share it on your personal social media pages.

Thank you for seeking and spreading the art of improving the experience of life!

With gratitude ...

One Lovely Blog *Nomination*

I am so honored that Presence Matters has been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by Inwardmarvels. It has been such a rewarding experience to spread the message of peace and ease over the past few months. I am so appreciative of my readers and followers and cannot thank you enough for your continued support and help spreading the peace! Now, to the nomination ... I am copying the rules as they have been posted by Inwardmarvels.

One Lovely Blog Awarddownload

The One Lovely Blog Award nominations are chosen by fellow bloggers for those newer and up-and-coming bloggers. The goal is to help give recognition and also to help the new blogger to reach more viewers. It also recognizes blogs that are considered to be “lovely” by the fellow bloggers who choose them. This award recognizes bloggers who share their story or thoughts in a beautiful manner to connect with viewers and followers. In order to “accept” the award the nominated blogger must follow several guidelines:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.
  • Share 7 facts or things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform the nominees by commenting on their blog.

7 Facts about Myself

  1. I am the youngest of four.
  2. I strive for self-growth and development, holding the belief that we are the masters of our universe.
  3. I hiked the entire 2200+ miles of the Appalachian Trail in 2009.
  4. I love dogs, am allergic to cats and currently have no pets.
  5. I have lived in 10 different places in the last 11 years — some might call that a gypsy; I just say "yes" to life.
  6. I truly believe in the power of love and compassion, with a personal experience that the world is as beautiful of a place as you want it to be — it reflects what you project onto it.
  7. I have not had cable in over 8 years.

My 15 Nominations: You Are Awesome!!

  1. Awaken
  2. Mind Clouds
  3. writing to freedom
  4. Aminelle Nali - Splendiferous Doses of Happiness
  5. The Living Philosopher
  6. Slowishly
  7. That's Another Story
  8. Happiness, Healthy and Hypnosis
  9. Soul Buds & Mind Blossoms
  10. Spiritual Success
  11. only here only now
  12. Let Yourself Learn
  13. Nature and Mind
  14. James Radcliffe
  15. thebuddhasutra

Gratitude Rocks! Reasons to Jam Out

Life sucks. My boss is a jerk.

This steak is overcooked.

Yes ... there are plenty of things to complain about in this world. But there are also a ton of amazing (and not-so-amazing, quite ordinary) things that are worthy of our acknowledgment on a daily — if not hourly — basis.

Practicing gratitude has a number of benefits. And who wants to be a “Negative Nancy” all the time?

Curious what these benefits are and how to cultivate them on a regular basis?

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I admit, I have said many a negative thing in my life. But I don't like the way I feel when I say those things. When those negative thoughts start to emerge — which they still do — I immediately try to interrupt them and ask "what are you grateful for?"

Then I list off three or five things that I am grateful for in this very moment.

It is amazing how much better I feel and how quickly those terrible things don't seem so terrible anymore.

Expressing gratitude can sometimes slip our minds. But the benefits far outweigh the effort required to implement a regular gratitude practice.

There is a growing body of knowledge in this area led by highly esteemed researchers such as Robert Emmons, Ph.D. Check out some of the benefits found during this gratitude research.

  • In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
  • A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.
  • daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.
  • In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

"So, how do I go about doing this more often?" you might ask.

Establish a system that works for you. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep a gratitude journal and list a few things in it each day before going to bed that made you smile or that you were grateful for.
  • Participate in or create a gratitude challenge on Facebook with your friends to post 3 “grate” things on a daily basis.
  • Ask a friend to be your “Gratitude Buddy” and send each other one thing you are grateful for each day — not only does it reap the benefits, it helps you develop a deeper connection with a friend you might not otherwise connect with as often. Next time you find yourself saying something negative, try the gratitude treatment. I bet you'll have an easier time finding things to be grateful for than having to complain about.

What are 3-5 things you are grateful for right now? Spread the gratitude bug by sharing your thoughts below.

Presence Matters Invited to Be Guest Blogger on Kindness Blog

It is truly an honor to be asked to share this message on other blogs that are also doing amazing work spreading the message of peace, joy and goodness in the world! Check it out and follow Kindness Blog — if you aren't already — and keep spreading the love.

http://kindnessblog.com/2014/10/07/3-things-that-happen-when-you-have-inner-peace/

With gratitude ...